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Covid-19: Reopening of Leisure Businesses in England

On 9 July, at a Downing Street press briefing, the UK’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced that outdoor sports, including team sports, will be able to restart in stages from 11 July, and indoor venues (including gyms and swimming pools) will follow on 25 July so long as they adhere to strict safety procedures.

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Jon Patrick, Head of Leisure & Development, Christie & Co, comments:

“The announcement of these new initiatives is great news for the health and fitness and wellness industries, but they are arguably a little overdue in comparison to the hospitality sector, especially given the preparations and readiness as well as communications with its customer base, the industry has adopted over the lockdown period.

The government is soon to publish a new list of compulsory protocols for gym operators to follow in order for them to be able to reopen. The industry body ukactive has been in close collaboration with operators in order to set out details and guidance for the use of equipment and facilities as well as providing instructions for swimming, outdoor areas and group classes.

Whilst many surveys have pointed to a large number of gym members being keen to return to their clubs which is, of course, positive news, there will be a great focus from operators on attendance levels, as they will be very much reliant on these numbers in order to stay open.

Further down the line, attention will need to be turned to how clubs can attract new members to replace those who have left – either through natural attrition or because of personal financial difficulties as a result of unemployment or job uncertainty. On the flip side, with so much importance placed on the health and wellbeing of the nation, and with the resilience and creativity of the industry, we’re also hearing that some operators are predicting a surge in memberships following the initial reopening.

Throughout lockdown, Christie & Co’s leisure team has been committed to helping closed businesses prepare for what’s to come on 25 July. We’ve been focused on discussions around what operators need to do to reopen, how social distancing could impact the number of people capable of being accommodated at any one time, how this would affect headline income, the additional costs of PPE and cleaning, and what the longer term prospects may be for the wider leisure sector.

As gyms start to reopen there are bound to be winners and losers; there will be those who are committed to paying more challenging rents and who can cope with lower customer figures, and those who simply can’t. But we wish all businesses, big and small, the very best as they begin to reopen once again and navigate the new leisure scene.”

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